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Archive for October, 2010

Sunday is, in some ways, the longest day of the week.

There`s a lot of time to kill and you can`t hunt.  You also don`t want to party too hard as tomorrow morning will come every earlier than yesterday or today.  There`s a bit of an excited tension weaving it`s way through camp and we`ll do some light tasks to get ready; most of them are just to keep us busy and help the time pass.

The first order of the day had me working on an h`ors derves to serve later in the day.  We often feast on Pork Hocks for a Sunday afternoon treat which is often served around a campfire.  I decided to mix things up this year and purchased a pig`s head from our local farmer who was pleased to provide me with a part that is often discarded.  There could – and will be – an entire post about how to cook such a thing, why and how to eat it but we`ll keep that for after the hunting pieces.  It did take about 10-12 hours to slowly roast on a barbecue at about 225 degrees.

My principal task for the day was to try to get our TV working.  The first television came to our cabin in the id 1980s and has been there (during the hunt) ever since.  It provides updates on weather and a connection to the outside world (to use a phone we have to hike or drive to a rock that is on high ground and provides the only cellphone signal for miles around) and allows for a neutral distraction through the week.  It`s not essential but it`s a nice to have when 14 guys are living in fairly tight space for a week.  It runs on a gas generator, as does the rest of our cabin (we alternate between this and a system of propane lights and stoves).

I have been trying to establish a satellite signal at the camp for 3 years and today was the day I needed to end the struggle once and for all.

I am sure, for many, that it sounds like a TV would be a disconnect with this excursion – and that adding a few hundred channels would add to that discord.  There`s two reasons why I wanted the satellite to work:

  1. We have an antenna that received a few channels now.  The antenna normally gets shut down after dinner and replaced by a DVD.  The lights go low, volume goes up and we tend to watch a few movies in near silence as each of us slowly drop into slumber and skulk to bed.  It’s tough to stay awake through a movie when you’ve been in fresh air all day; the warmth of the fire and comfort of the cabin quickly lull me into theater of the mind.
  2. Baseball.  The Toronto Blue Jays won 2 World Series when I was younger.  I watched all of the games with my Father – except when he hunted and he watched them at the cabin with the guys.  By the time I became a Full-Time hunter, baseball had become the domain of private networks and we couldn`t see the games at the cabin.  I`ve often imagined watching the games with all of the guys, each of us with varying interest (I haven`t wwatched a baseball game in years) and levels of engagement.  Lights would stay on, there would be side conversations and general merriment and when a big play happened we`d all be drawn to the screen like a fly to light.  Baseball would take us from a dark room of individual experience and turn our evenings back to a shared experience.  That`s how it works in my imagination at any rate.

I ended up having to drive to town again today.  It was a very quick stop to an electronics store to purchase a signal finder which would help with the job.  The transaction featured a strained conversation with a store clerk who easily picked up that I was a hunter based on the time of year and my purchase.  He had recently moved from England and I tried to avoid a barrage of questions he had for me; most of which had a pretty sharp edge to them.  He ended our conversation by stating he couldn`t wish me luck but he wasn`t oposed to what we were doing.  I am empathetic to his stance – was more excited to get back to the bush than anything else.

It took us 4 or 5 hours but a small team did get the satellite going and we will have baseball this year.  It`s an exciting day – one t«t I believe will change not only wat we watch but how we interact.

The day also had some formal business.  We had a safety meeting, planned strategy and conducted our memorial targeting championship that is named after a friend and former member who passed away a few years back.  Each of us had two shots at a target and we would name the `sharp shooter`amongst us.  It`s a silly contest that`s more about bragging rights than skill building but it was a good time.  My Father took top honours; he`s always had the gift of a sharp eye and there were several comments that it was fitting that he would win because he was so close to the friend we were honouring.

We also formalized duties of our sub-teams.  We divide the camp into two groups and split chores – one group has to do inside duties (cooking, cleaning dishes, tend fire) and the other has the outside (sauna, campfire, wood) for a day and the next day duties flip.  It`s a way of splitting up work and making sure guys get the opportunity to rest and that work still gets done.

It`s been decided that I`ll be watching tomorrow.  In some ways I am excited (watchers have a better chance, in theory, to see something) but I am also a little disappointed because I want to be out there with the dog (who will be with my Father tomorrow).  There`s lots of week left and I will get my chances to dog so the best path of resolution is to apply patience.  We`re also having lunch in the woods tomorrow – it will be a long day.

We`re charging radios, checking batteries, unpacking whistles, compasses and maps.  Anticipation is definitely building.

Eating the Pig`s head was a fascinating experience – one that I`m sure many Social Scientists would have adored observing.  There we were, a room full of men in the middle of the woods with the purpose of harvesting (i.e. killing) animals and there was an unease about what sat before us on the table (including with me).  I have eaten like this once before (and consumed parts of the entrée without being served like this several times) and I still found it somewhat confounding.  I knew I`d have to be first.  I showed how to cut a piece, laid it on a piece of pumpernickel bread lined with cheese and bit it.  I had a combination of hot crackling and fat that was similar to butter.  It was rich, hot, a little uncomfortable and fabulous.  As I stepped back another stepped forward and tried.  Soon almost everyone was digging it.

I don`t know why it`s tough for me to think about eating the face of an animal when many of us salivate over it`s back, ribs or butt.  It is a fascinating experience and most of the entire serving was consumed in 20 or 30 minutes.  Not all partook and there was no pressure to do so.  I can understand why some didn`t or couldn`t partake and how most of the rest struggled at times but can`t find words for it.

The day finished with a quick sauna (more on that later) and shower.  I feel like a new guy and am ready for the week ahead.

The alarm is set for 5:00AM.  It will be dark and a touch cold and it will feel earlier than is proper.  It`s time to search for darkness and the comfort of my bed.

This is the second post of 9-straight which chronicle my 2010 Ontario moose hunt which began 1 week ago today.  The 9 days will be posted through this week and next weekend and will try to capture the essence of my experiences hunting for local food.  The link above will reveal all the posts which have been published so far – as well as the complete series from last year.  Last years series emphasized a lot of my personal struggle with hunting.

Every comment that adds to the conversation on hunting (i.e. you don’t have to agree with any of our views – but comments that are exceptionally short or ‘attack’ people aren’t eligible) will count as a ballot in our Food Matters Contest (full rules and explanation here).  We hope to create dialogue over hunting and consciousness of what we eat and will listen to all with open ears and open hearts, willing to listen and share with all points of view).

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Morning came way too fast – and she arrived with a lot of chaos.

To explain the eruption that started my day I’ll need to rewind to the last moments of the previous evening.

After finishing my journal entry I closed my book, secured it with the magnetic clasp that bound it and sealed it within the inner pocket of my jacket.  The final remnants of my bottle were swilled as I rose from my chair, lit my flashlight and killed the propane light.  A short walk to my bunk preceded a quick disrobe (this is the warmest way to sleep which is why I am sharing this), shiver and a hurried scamper to get into the warmth of bed.

Our closest neighbor at the cabin is about 5 km through the woods.  We are more than 13 from a street light and 20+ from any significant gathering of humanity.  Laying in bed here is a bizarre experience – you see the identical darkness with your eyes open as you do when they are shut.  I can’t see the hint of my hand as the digits hover close to my nose.  It is odd that this darkness, inside, is comforting while outside it can be overwhelming.

I tend to lay in bed, eyes open and seeing nothing.  The transition from consciousness to slumber is difficult to notice as the world is dark regardless of what you are trying to see.  I believe this also helps significantly in a deeper sleep; one I rarely wake from without someone physically prodding me.

Back to the eruption of the morning…

I went from asleep to awake in an instant.  I could hear yelling and screaming and recognized the voice of one of our members (it is his 40th year hunting at our camp).  “GET OUT – GET THE HELL OUT!”

It took a comment to realize that his screams were also on the edge of the throes of sleep.  What sounded like a panicked plea wasn’t – although my nerves were still high realizing that the assailant had to be my 15-month old puppy.  It was going to be an awkward start to the week if my dog was going to lauch wet nose and wagging tail at every member of our crew as they slept.

I scurried out of bed, Shaeffer ran for the kitchen and I threw on some pants.  His ‘victim’ stayed in bed.

Our cabin is two rooms – a bunk room that sleeps 14 and a kitchen/dining/social room.  I entered the kitchen and saw my father standing with a funny look on his face and watched as he threw a tennis ball into the bunk room.  More specifically, he threw it in the bunk of the dog’s “victim.”  We both chuckled, traded a silent hug and settled into coffee around the wood stove.  My host from the previous evening joined me as did the one other conscious member and we all became re-acquainted.  For the entire conversation we all sat shoulder to shoulder and stared at the glowing embers of the fire.

Moose season in Southern Ontario will start on Monday and last 6 days.  The weekend is about having some fun, prepping for the week ahead and tracking.

I knew I had to go to town to run some final errands.  I got that out of the way early – it’s about an hour each way and there were only 4 guys (of our 14) in camp.  I took off around 9:00AM and headed to Huntsville.

One of the guys was having problems with his ATV (All Terrain Vehicle – or four-wheeler).  He left about 20 minutes ahead of me to drive to a mechanic friend that lives on the border of the forest line.  It didn’t take me long to catch up to him.

My friend was 7 kilometers in the middle of a forest on a logging road when his ATV broke down.  5 minutes before I found him a truck had been coming down that same road, saw him stalled in the middle of the road and navigated around him before moving on.  This is a major violation of both common courtesy and the way many of us believe things should happen in the woods.  It’s disappointing to think that had he been there by himself (the truck had no way of knowing otherwise), that my 72-year old friend (still in great form to hunt and be in the woods) would have been found and abandoned like that.  This experience chilled me and became a precursor for a related experience 7 days later.

It took extra time to get to town but we got the ATV to the shop and a quick adjustment had the world right again.

Town was a bizarre experience.  I ran into 3 people that I know – 2 of them I saw 3 different times.  We were all doing the same things – hardware store, liquor store, final groceries and that type of thing.  1 was co-worker from Newmarket but the other 2 were guys I knew from the area.  We’ll never be local up there but it’s times like these that make us feel like special guests and not just aliens landing for a week.

I was heading back to the woods when I stopped at our mechanic to make sure my friend had not come back.  Once I confirmed that I pulled my truck back to the logging road only to see 3 trucks approaching and knew that most of the crew was here.

The 3 vehicles pulled to the side of the trail.  This isn’t a “real” road anymore – there are no traffic signs, pavement, plowing, grading or repairs.  In fact, it becomes a groomed snowmobile trail in the winter.  It’s easy to find places for multiple vehicles to clear off the path and make room for others to pass.

I lined my truck up behind the last one and we all popped out to greet each other, trade hugs and handshakes and have a beer before navigating the final 13 kilometers (which takes about 40 minutes).

There are 14 hunters this year.  9 of us are either the father or a son of another member.  We are all male.

Women have never hunted moose or deer with us (though my mother and Dana are present when we bird hunt).  Women were actually banned from our Moose hunt in the 1960s – but perhaps for a different reason than you may think.  It was several wives who actually initiated the ban – requesting that if their husbands were going to be away from them for 10 days in the middle of the woods they would far prefer there were no ladies present.  None of the spouses or children have shown interest in Moose hunting yet so that separation has remained a reality; one that may one-day change the moment that someone’s daughter wants to hunt.  We’re very focussed on family and keeping this tradition alive.

I drove in with the new crew and the  day continued onwards.  Saturday is one of the best days of this trip – most of the guys are here, everyone is having fun and we know the alarm clock isn’t going to pull us out of bed and into the darkness at 5.00AM.

A communal spaghetti dinner (with our preserved tomato sauce) paves the way for a great night of revelry and our bizarre family of hunters is reunited once again.

This is the second post of 9-straight which chronicle my 2010 Ontario moose hunt which began 1 week ago today.  The 9 days will be posted through this week and next weekend and will try to capture the essence of my experiences hunting for local food.  The link above will reveal all the posts which have been published so far – as well as the complete series from last year.  Last years series emphasized a lot of my personal struggle with hunting.

Every comment that adds to the conversation on hunting (i.e. you don’t have to agree with any of our views – but comments that are exceptionally short or ‘attack’ people aren’t eligible) will count as a ballot in our Food Matters Contest (full rules and explanation here).  We hope to create dialogue over hunting and consciousness of what we eat and will listen to all with open ears and open hearts, willing to listen and share with all points of view).

 

 

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2.45AM Late night Friday, Oct 22 (technically the 23rd as it’s well past midnight as I write this)

It’s been a long day.  A long week, long month and long last little while.  Don’t misconstrue that as a complaint or request for sympathy.  Things have been great – just very, very busy.

“Have been busy” is the emphasis.  Things are crashing to a slow halt for the next 9 days.

I work almost an hour north of where I live – the camp is about 3 hours from work.  Since the pup (Shaeffer the Vizsla) was coming with me tonight and since he can’t type I had to drive south before going north this evening.  Rather than crawling through rush hour traffic of our city I decided to do some final errands in Newmarket and turned the truck south around 7.30.  A quick visit at home, some final preparations, packing and completing a few posts for my week away was complete by 10.00 and we pulled into the darkness of the north by 10.30.

Shaeff quickly settled into his seat with a terse grumble as we drove north; he was laying on a bed made for a king and covered in his blanket.  He’s been in our lives for just over a year and it continues to be a surprise how often I am envious of him.

There was a chill in the air and the combination of fresh oxygen mixed with luke warm caffeine from less than reputable roadside coffee shops and sugar that seemed to fuel the energy of my body and the truck.

The long drive north is akin to a bridge between two disparate realities.  As the bright lights of the fast city disappeared behind I could feel the expanse of Northern Darkness swallow the truck, my furry friend and myself.  It’s not an entirely cosy feeling – much like jumping in a lake on a summer day, you find yourself simultaneously excited and  struggling for breath and bearings before your senses adjust to the new reality and find comfort within it.

The initial feeling of shock is no more real than when I pulled to the side of our logging trail when I was halfway into camp.  More than 5 miles from the last house (and pavement) and more than 5 miles from our cabin.  I shut off the engine and stepped into the evening stillness.  I do this every year and each time I find it just as eerie.  Standing in a dark road in the middle of a forest and knowing that I am likely the only person in the middle of a circle that measures 10 miles across is an odd feeling – especially when you were in the middle of a city and a busy day only hours before.

As I sat in the middle of the woods (just before 1.30AM), it was easy to imagine a 1,000 eyes peering at me.  I have thought for years that the ultimate horror movie would need no monsters, beasts, ghosts or people – just one poor sap in the middle of the world with no life around him.  I stood on the road for a few minutes before I got so uncomfortable that I practically jumped in the pickup, jammed the keys in the ignition and was glad to see the spot I stood fading in the rearview mirror.

The truck crawled into camp around 2.00AM.  I was welcomed by a dark fortress – the 3 or 4 guys who arrived earlier in the week (mostly the retired crew) were long asleep.  I didn’t figure they’d be awake and was pleasantly surprised to see a propane light spark to life as I stood in the darkness with a yawning dog who needed to respond to a different call of nature.

I approached the camp, flung the door open and a very sleepy member of the camp greeted me – the oldest member of our crew.  I only mention age to paint the picture – more relevant is the fact that we’ve known each other for more than 30 of my 37 years.  We exchange a quick hug and he passes me a beer from his case explaining that no one should enter the hunt without a proper greeting.  He had gotten out of bed to share a beer with me for purpose of greeting and welcoming me to the hunt.

It did not escape me how tribal this type of tradition is and I can easily imagine the day long from now that I am crawling out of bed to greet the next generation.  Traditions are so solid that you can enjoy them in the moment, reflect on similar experiences of your past and predict your own future.  Passing of such traditions are too rare these days and are a giant part of what pulls me into this darkness every year.

Despite being one of our statesman, my hosts age (he is in his 70s and knows more about the woods than many of us youngins ever will – combined) had nothing to do with the struggle he had with his beer – that was the function of the awful combination of beer and toothpaste.  The gesture – and effort – means a lot to me.

As that beer faded, my host slid into the bunk room that will soon be filled with 13 or 14 of us.  The dog has since huddled into his bed and I find myself staring into the evening darkness.  I’ve definitely completed the crossing and find myself on the other side of this reality though I have yet to find complete comfort with it.  The irony is that experience tells me I will undergo a similar transition when I return to the city – one I often find more difficult than this evenings trek.

8 days left and morning will come early…

This is the first post of 9-straight which chronicle my 2010 Ontario moose hunt which began 1 week ago today.  The 9 days will be posted through this week and next weekend and will try to capture the essence of my experiences hunting for local food.  The link above will reveal all the posts which have been published so far – as well as the complete series from last year.  Last years series emphasized a lot of my personal struggle with hunting.

Every comment that adds to the conversation on hunting (i.e. you don’t have to agree with any of our views – but comments that are exceptionally short or ‘attack’ people aren’t eligible) will count as a ballot in our Food Matters Contest (full rules and explanation here).  We hope to create dialogue over hunting and consciousness of what we eat and will listen to all with open ears and open hearts, willing to listen and share with all points of view).


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If you came here to learn about the contest, scroll past the dashed line for more details.

I am a fan of Mark Bittman.  He changed my kitchen by introducing me to No Knead Bread (instructions here), and How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian are staples in my kitchen.  Of course he is also a practical, humorous and intelligent food writer for the New York Times (his column, The Minimalist, is one of my all-time faves).

Bittman writes recipes for people like me – people who don’t follow recipes.  Many of his recipes are logical, step-by-step and then complimented with ideas on how you can change them, mix them up and be creative (and adaptable based on what is in your cupboard).  It is ironic that because he is willing to give me many options to change the dish as I want that I find myself following some of his recipes to the letter to see his personal take on them to contrast with my own.

The two books above will not only teach you how to cook a few great dishes, they will teach you to become a better cook.  The books make conventional cookbooks look like the “Dummies” series of books which force you to memorize steps and strict measures (the HOWs of cooking) without explaining the WHYs.  Bittman focuses on the WHYs and gives you and optional HOW with encouragement to figure out your own way.  As a passionate adult educator, I maintain that most cookbooks will save your hide when you are cooking for a dinner party but their sustained effect  on the rest of your cooking is generally limited.  Bittman doesn’t necessarily provide such instant gratification (though knead bread is a definitive exception) but his sustained impact on your cooking will have an incremental impact on your culinary skills over time.

His recent book cookbook, The Food Matters Cookbook is a follow-up to his text named “The Food Matters“.  The latter was a study of our patterns of food consumption, how they are effecting our planet and a plan on how to work around busy schedules, lifestyles, and individual “real” lives.  As opposed to focussing exclusively on problems facing our food system, Bittman provides a potential solution that is flexible and adaptable.  The culmination of the book is a sample meal plan that stretches a month of eating that is gentler to the planet and the person consuming it.

The Food Matters Cookbook launches where the text left us.  Bittman champions a conscious approach to eating and cooking and provides more than 500 practical recipes that can be made for 4 hungry adults.  Bittman introduces his philosophy (without banging it aggressively into your head) and explains that each dish can be paired with a simple side (like a salad or steamed vegetable) to make a complete meal.

The cookbook, like his proposed solution to industrial food consumption, is organized differently than typical cookbooks which center around a protein.  Meat (and meat products) are optional and provided as ingredients to dishes rather than whole dishes unto themselves (a Chinese friend of mine pointed out that meat as an ingredient as opposed to a course is a long-standing tradition in many food cultures including his own).  Bittman instead organizes his approach to food in 9 categories:

  1. Appetizers and Snacks
  2. Soups
  3. Salads and Dressings
  4. Pasta, Noodles and Dumplings
  5. Rice and Grains
  6. Beans
  7. Vegetables
  8. Bread, Pizza, Sandwiches and Wraps
  9. Desserts and Sweet Snacks

There are few illustrations or photos, the thin paper and ink reflect the values the author portrays.

We don’t always make the best choices and we don’t live to Mr Bittman’s Plan.  We do try to constantly improve in the choices we make and we spend a lot of time thinking about why and what we are eating – both when we make the right and wrong decisions.

We’re proud to announce a contest to give away a copy of the book that was donated to us by the publisher (more info below).

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Contest Details

Mark Bittman is a champion of conscious food.  Although I’m sure our definitions of the term would differ, I like to think that WellPreserved is also about conscious food.  There is a lot on preserving but we try to preserve more than ingredients – food, food culture, things like hunting, great people and memories associated with the food we consume.  I’ve often kidded Dana that it’s all simply “thinking about what we eat” or, as a cliché, “Food for Thought, Thought for Food.”

Bittman is not anti-meat (he still consumes it) though he is a proponent of decreasing the amount we consume and eliminating the horrors of factory farming.  I’m not sure his stance on hunting and I’m certain there would be food issues we disagree on.  But I do believe there is a common thread that remains – a passion for dialogue between people to explore our relationship to food, to what we are truly eating, supporting and our impact on the world around us.  There is not a single person in the world with all of the answers – but through logical and open dialogue with open minds, hearts and ears, we can learn off of each other.

Tomorrow is the start of our annual hunting series – I will be publishing the 9 days of my journal from the woods to share what the hunting experience is like.  Every comment that adds to the discussion (i.e. is more than a few words and hasn’t crossed the line from defending a stance to attacking a person, regardless of their view) will count as an entry into our draw for a copy of The Food Matters Cookbook (described above).  You must have a valid email address to be considered.  We will randomly choose a winner by November 10th at the latest (entry for the contest will end at 11:59:59 PM EST on the night of Saturday, November 6.

We hope that there will be increased discussion around hunting as a partial approach to local food.  We do not need to agree with each other but we must respect each other – if I feel a comment is potentially overtly offensive (I know that’s subjective but it’s my kitchen after all :)), I will not publish it.  Open-minded debate is wonderful but there’s enough fighting in the world that I don’t want to turn a tough subject into a virtual screaming match.

Participants can enter as often as they comment on the hunting series (there will be no in-your-face graphic photos) which begins tomorrow.  Questions are welcome in addition to any of your own additions to the topic.  We will send the book anywhere in the world (within reason;  the Survivors on LOST would be on their own).  I hope we have a fascinating multi-way dialogue in the coming days – best of luck to all of you.

As is our policy, I must let you know that the book was a gift from Simon and Schuster and that they agreed to our terms – we would not write about it unless we loved it.  They were totally supportive and we, indeed, love it.

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We often get asked about eating locally through the winter; we are not 100% local eaters though we do try to stay seasonal and when it makes sense for us to buy local we do so.  I know there is very little scientific proof to support my rationale that food grown by people you know tastes better than that made by those you can’t trace but I chose to suspend logic and simply believe that’s true.

Large retailers do a better job than ever with Canadian produce but finding truly local can be difficult finding local food in our city.  We learned last year that by mid-winter things like squash, onions, carrots and even potatoes are difficult to come by.  If only we had a cold cellar…

The Stop has a great winter market at Wychwood Barns which is open every Saturday morning (year round) and features the food of farmers from around the GTA.  The difficulty for us is the distance that Wychwood is from home – it’s a lovely place that’s nearly full across the city.  We still make it out there every 4-6 weeks and I truly adore it when I can – weekly grocery trips are out of the Question for us.

Appletree Market (Yonge and Eglington) also has a bi-weekly Winter Market and Dufferin Grove goes through the winter as well.  These are also further treks for us.

The Brickworks has announced a new winter market for this year that’s much closer and I’ll be excited to check out as well.

I’m thrilled to share that Kawartha Ecological Growers is continuing it’s winter CSA program from last year.  We’ve been members through the summer and been supporters/ friends for the last few years.

The program is straightforward:

  • Each share is picked up once every two weeks.
  • The program runs from the start of January through mid-may (20 weeks)
  • Each pickup includes $35 of chosen product and $25 of credit that you can choose to your liking.
  • Selections include 14 different types of potatoes, different types of squash, parsnips, carrots, beets, onions, celeriac, and a tonne of veggies including late and early season kale, baby greens, sprouts, dried beans, preserves, flour, maple syrup, and meats (including duck, goat, pork, lamb and more) that are from the CoOperative.

There are 3 pick-up locations (Univeristy of Toronto, Ceili Cottage in the East and the AppleTree Market (Yonge and Eglington) in the winter.  There’s more detail here(scroll down for  or email Shannon for more info (she’s super friendly).  We’ve had an amazing growing season in Southern Ontario this year and I’m hoping the cellars of KEG will help augment our eating through the winter.

There’s only 150 shares, so let them know soon if you are planning on joining (we’ve jumped on ours).  If you’re picking up at Leslieville, let us know; would be fun to have a mid-winter pint with a few ‘digital friends.’

If you have a winter market or CSA that you wish to bring awareness to, feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below (no matter where your “local” is).

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Human behaviour (including my own) fascinates me.

Last week I learned that a friend tried several foods for the first time in his life last year – including squash and broccoli.  He is in his mid-40s and has a limited selection of options which he likes to choose from when it comes to eating.  He found that he liked squash and continues to eat it on occasion.  I really think it is so awesome that he is trying new things when he has stayed within his own paradigm for so long that what may appear to be a small step for some people is actually a significant leap.

I also recall two people (they did not know each other) who I’ve known in my life.  They share two distinctions in my memory: they were both the academically smartest people I’ve ever known and had a common approach to lunch.  Each had chosen what they felt to be an appropriate lunch and made the same thing to eat 5-days-per week.  The rationale was eerily identical: why bother using brain power trying to come up with an idea of what to eat when they had already decided on something that was a perfectly acceptable meal.

I have generally been very adventurous with trying new things.  There’s only one thing I ever truly remember not liking which was an odd French-Canadian cold bean curd dish served with maple syrup that I would probably love today.  At the same token, I had a chance to eat a Pigs eyeball last week and took a pass while a friend dove in and ate one – but stopped short of eating the “black part” (pupil) and encouraged me that the experience was very much like eating meat (something I would not have touched for almost 5 years).   I do recall feeling that it would be something I will try on another day…

My limit is apparently eyeball.  I don’t know why that’s any harsher than meat itself, tongue, ears, tails or other parts of the animal that I am willing to eat.  In all likelihood I’ve had eyeball as some byproduct of the industrial food system without knowing it such as sausage or hot dog and I’ve been fine as long as I didn’t know and that doesn’t bother me.  There is an emotional disconnect that tells me that one thing is somehow more difficult for me to knowingly consume than other things I know and am comfortable with.

It is interesting to me to think that eyeball to me somehow relates to squash and my friend.  We both have food limits that are self-imposed based on preference and past experience rather than simply the taste of something.

Where are your limits?  Where did they come from?  Are you comfortable with them or do you want to change them?

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We have recently dehydrated a lot of full (i.e. in-tact) hot peppers.  Cut the ends off the lovelies and dried them crispy.  There were about 15-20 pounds of them in total.  I adore the look of the final product , here`s a sample:

Vorking with these can appear to be a challenge.  They don`t chop easily as they tend to shatter and launch fragments of pepper powder across your kitchen and it`s a lot of work to fire up the blender each and every time you want to use them.  You could blend a bunch at once but the flavour of unused pepper will disappear quicker from powder than it will from the whole beast.

Another option is to rehydrate them in boiling water.  We do this by putting the peppers in a coffee mug and pouring hot water over them.  I usually cover the works with a small plate to retain the heat and have something mailable in 15-20 minutes.  This disadvantage is that some of the heat and flavour is transferred into the water that most discard (in the case of smoked peppers like chipotles, I tend to reserve it to use as liquid smoke).

My preference, when cooking soups or sauces (we were cooking chilli yesterday) is to add the peppers whole to your dish as it cooks.  The peppers will rehydrate with the liquid of your dish and the flavours of the peppers will transfer to what they are cooking within (much like tea does to the water it sits in).  This also gives you an option to reduce your heat by removing the peppers use them for something else.  We love spicy thins so we pull them out and slice them up like they were whole and add them back to what we are cooking – they`re not quite as plump as they were before dehydration but are very easy to slice and are visible within our chilli:

This may seem startlingly obvious to many but was a valuable lesson a few years back that would have saved me many bouts of frustration as hot peppers exploded across my kitchen!

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